Sunday, November 30, 2008


By one definition, freedom is the space / ability to do what you want.

Orca Starbuck explained Aldus Huxley to me saying that he recommended that people do what they want. Apparently people are generally too removed from themselves for this to be practical, so he recommended that if you thought you might want something, go ahead and act on it.

It sounds like crazy talk, but in the absence of constraints, doing what you want seems like a better methodology than either of the alternatives 'doing what you don't want' or 'not doing what you want'. In my experience Huxley's warning proves true, and just understanding what I want turns out to be a challenge.

One reason for this is that 'wanting' isn't as dimensional one dimensional as your parents like to think when they ask questions like 'don't you want good grades?'. Sure I want good grades. That plus I'd like to be the Paul Graham of India by running a successful hightech incubator, plus I'd really like to come up with an answer to how we're supposed to live on the planet. This list goes on.

But, right now I want to respond to the people trying to chat with me in gmail, and later I'm thinking I want to watch HellBoy 2. I don't particularly want to work on a budget for upstart. Powering over the lower desires in favor of the higher goals may be a sign of discipline and an effective personality. It also seems like a recipe for being miserable.

In college I remember my friends studying literature grappling with reading lists which were humanly impossible to get thru in the alotted time. Many were well trained and spent all waking hours doing coursework, thereby developing a profound hatred of literature which lasted many years after their last force fed masterpiece.

The question for me is whether I can strategically create mental spaces which are more inclined to 'want' to do the hard work - budgets, marketing plans, presentations, code ... necessary to bring the dreams into being. I have by no means nailed this, but a few things seem apparent. Good health, adequate sleep, adequate preparation, passionate colleagues, quickly achievable objectives and consistency all seem to contribute towards a mental space in which I 'want' to do 'hard' work in the moment.

While I'm thinking about how to manage time and priorities effectively I thought I'd plug my cousin Dana Rayburn's blog on adult ADD.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Dinner at the 'O'

The 0 Hotel in Koregaon Park

I had dinner with Satish Dharmaraj the other night at the O Hotel in Koregaon Park. I've been wanting to check that place out since it opened, I was suitably impressed - especially the rooftop restaurant.

Satish and I worked together at Sun. He was the server lead after Pavni and I took off to work on a labs project called 'Persona' where we were trying to create a cute low cost personal web server that would effectively replace the answering machine.

About the Same time Pavni and I did Kendara, Satish left with some heavy hitters and joined And, just before Kendara sold to Excite@Home Onebox sold to for $700 million. His comment on our 9 digit price tag was 'why did you sell for so less?'. Those were strange and wonderful times :)

Coincidently at Onebox he worked with Adarbad Master the founder and CTO of which I helped set up and worked with for a year and a half here in Pune. Meanwhile Satish did which Yahoo acquired last year.

We met for Pizza on my last trip in California and he was into the YCombinator for India idea. So, now we're discussing the best way to pull it off.Dinner with Satish

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Video Volunteers, Goa, etc

Its time for a general update.

I've started talking with people up at IIMA again about being a part of the next iAccelerator, so I'm slowing down alittle on until that conversation plays out.

In the meantime moved from Ahmedabad down to Goa and I've been volunteering with them a bit to help with their online strategy, and to teach video and online marketing workshops. I wrote the last couple of posts on their blog

Hanging out in Goa is a big perk. My high school friend Kyra is there for awhile after spending the last year traveling around the Middle East and Asia.

She just finished a month long yoga teachers training, so she was able to clue me into the yoga scene down there which is pretty hardcore. So, I spent last week doing Ashtanga with Ken at the Dunes, doing ecstatic dance with this 5 rythms teacher from LA, and generally being healthy and productive.

Dec 6 & 7, I'm organizing an online marketing workshop at the media center we are setting up in Baga.

Come on by.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Startup Village

I initially thought I would live in Calcutta when I first came to India. A guy a friend met on elance met me at the airport and booked me into a hotel with paan stains in the halls (which I thought was dried blood) and a whole coven of crows picking thru a massive pile of garbage outside. It was a hard landing, but when I found Sutter street and the Blue Sky cafe things turned around.

In my initial hardcore backbacker tour I experimented with how cheap could survive. In calcutta I got a room in a hotel for 100 rps / night and found several food places where I could get a meal of subji and roti for under 15 rps. Including internet time I figured I could live on $100 / month which validated the $200 my friend was paying developers over here which seemed absurdly low.

Downtown Calcutta was great, the people I met there were smart and passionate - "Calcutta is the heart of India" they would say. I still believe if you multiply the two functions of educated work force and low cost of living they may have their minimum in Calcutta.

But I got sick. To be fair it wasn't entirely Calcutta's fault. Traveling by Tuk Tuk thru Bangkok probably got me started. But after a few weeks with a chronic cough that would rack my lungs for several hours before I could sleep, I decided that no amount of professional ambition merited destroying my health.

I added 'nice lifestyle' to the equation and found my way to Pune which when seen from the tree canopied lanes of Koregoan Park seemed to have the best life style - high tech professional opportunity - low cost of living. Its undeniably an awesome place to live - especially for the urban jet set that can take advantage of the 5 designer bars offering 400 rps martini's that have sprung up less than 1 km from my apartment in the last few years.

But, it maybe alittle too Manhattan now for the average Indian bootstrapping startup.
A 2 bhk is now in the 25 - 30k range, and worse than just the price is simply that they are hard to find.

With the dream of getting underway, and some other conversations I'm having about 2bhk training I'm looking around again for where those curves come together but with one more parameter - capacity. As I picture my ideal scenario its a massively over built housing society on the edge of town a few km past Koregoan Park where rent is cheap and there is 20% vacancies in a society of 300 units.

Some very new construction fits this description like Sun City and Margapata with rents around 8k, I'm guessing we can find something slightly older at 8k. Assuming we shared a cook I estimate for a startup working from home would cost
rent 8k
food 8k
electricity 1k
internet 1k
misc. 2k
~ 20k / month or 1 lakh ($2000) for a startup of 4 guys to operate for 5 months.
How hard would it be for even a very junior team of 4 guys to pull in 20k / mo just bottom feeding on rentacoder ? The exciting thing about this for me isn't that its possible to pull off once, its that if there's a model here that works, if a team of 4 junior engineers earning $500 a month is easy, then I maintain there are an almost infinite number of 4 man teams available, and the 2 bhks to house them, in one medium large housing society on outskirts.

The possible drawback to making this move for me is the lack of culture and more importantly Il Fungo Magico green salads that exist further down Nagar Rd. But, if we can make a movement, and coordinate a decent number of cool startup kids all moving together, we can quickly create a new tech center, with a high density of interesting people to support each other and at least one cook who really knows how to make a good salad.